Development and testing of oxygen/methane torch igniter technologies for propulsion systems

Luis Eduardo Sanchez, University of Texas at El Paso


The development and testing of an oxygen/methane torch ignition system as well as the evaluation process of the system are presented with the purpose of characterizing the properties and performance of methane as a fuel in a propulsion system. The experimental approach to this dissertation entails the development and testing of a swirl torch igniter under conditions that may be seen when feeding propellant from the main storage tanks: combinations of gaseous and liquid oxygen and methane. The experimental goal of this dissertation is to display the range of operability of the igniter technology presented leading to stable and consistent ignition. The interest on liquid oxygen/Methane as a propellant combination for rocket engine propulsion has been boosted due to recent developments in commercial space exploration, along with a desire to decrease the cost of space exploration technologies. Torch igniter requirements were met in this test campaign however issues with oxidizer condition were observed in the second phase of the torch igniter test campaign. The torch igniter design modification mitigated the issues encountered in the previous design iterations of the torch igniter. A total of 310 test runs were conducted in the torch igniter developmental test campaign. Steady state ignition was achieved in 276 out of 310 tests. Gas/gas propellants had a 100% ignition rate while liquid/liquid propellants had a 66% ignition rate. The propellant quality was plotted with the saturation curve to quantify the condition of the propellant that was fed to both successful and unsuccessful test runs. The objectives of this dissertation were successfully met as the swirl torch igniter was proven to resist and operate reliably in a rigorous duty cycle test. The igniter demonstrated the capability of recycling within seconds if the occasion required it.

Subject Area

Engineering|Mechanical engineering

Recommended Citation

Sanchez, Luis Eduardo, "Development and testing of oxygen/methane torch igniter technologies for propulsion systems" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10247777.